Updated:KENNEDY SPACE CENTER —
NASA is poised to add thousands more jobs at the Kennedy Space Center.
The hope is to reach a workforce of 10,000 over the next two to three years, according to Space Center officials.
The new hires would include NASA employees and contractors as well as workers who'll be hired on to support commercial space craft.
"Not many times in history do you have the opportunity to define your future and make it what you want it to be. And that's what we're doing right now at the Kennedy Space Center," said Bob Cabana, director of the Kennedy Space Center.
Commercial space flight and the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle, or MPCV, are both part of the Space Center future. The Orion capsule is being designed to take astronauts beyond low-earth orbit. It is scheduled to undergo unmanned flight test by September 2014.
"We are turning the Kennedy Space Center into a true multiuser space complex of the future, supporting both commercial and government crew and cargo to space," said Cabana.
That could mean job growth for the space coast.
Currently the Kennedy Space Center's job force is half of what is was during the shuttle program. Many former workers were forced to find employment in places like South Carolina and Colorado. Some were absorbed locally, others were not.
University of Central Florida space industry advocate Dale Ketcham said the region still fared better than it did after the more abrupt ending of the Apollo program.
"I think for the most part, it's not as cataclysmic as we feared. A lot of that has to do with the state, the federal government, the local region preparing for this even before the great recession hit," said Ketcham.
Ketcham said that still doesn't discount that the Space Coast and shuttle workers took a tough hit.
"There's a strong sense that we have bottomed out. Things are coming back here. The commercial space activity, commercial crew and cargo, a lot of different technology activities are blooming," said Ketcham.
Ketcham also said, with new commercial partners, space coast workers wouldn't be wedded to one big government
program, and that diversity makes the cycle of ending government programs that come and go more manageable.